Distant memories, life-changing moments and a newfound sense of identity come together in poet Richard Blanco’s book “For All of Us, One Today,” which details the creative journey behind writing and reading his poem “One Today” at President Obama’s 2013 inauguration.
The book was selected for this year’s “Seattle Reads,” a free, citywide program hosted by The Seattle Public Library Foundation that encourages reading and discussion about themes pertinent to the Seattle community.
Chris Higashi, Seattle Public Library program manager, said the choice was inspired by both the content of Blanco’s book as well as his personal background as the first immigrant, first Latino, first openly gay and youngest inaugural poet.
“I just think there’s just so much to talk about in this book,” she said. “Of course there’s the immigrant story, but there’s also the creative process. … The things that he talks about in this book, which also include an appreciation of family and certainly the sacrifices that his parents made — that cliché of doing things that allow your children to have better lives — I think those things resonate.”
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She hopes many people will join the conversation with the community and with Blanco, who comes to Seattle for some readings and discussions April 26-29.
We spoke with Blanco in advance of his visit:
Q: As you mention in the book, you are a lot of “firsts” as far as inaugural poets go. What do you think this means regarding the current climate of American culture?
A: I think it’s hopeful or reflective of part of where America’s going. I don’t think I could have been named the inaugural poet 10 years ago. There’s something wonderful about that. And a lot of the changes that have happened, especially in the LGBT world. … I think it’s a reflection of a new kind of generation of Americans.
Q: It sounds like a lot of people have reached out to you relating to your story since the inauguration. Are there any interactions or stories people have shared that stand out to you?
A: Some of them are in the book — the (hotel) doorman, the Asian-American lady who darted out of an alleyway. I’ve been getting a lot of drawings from grade-school kids of them illustrating the poem. A whole other batch of grade-school kids has written their own inaugural poem inspired by “One Today,” so that’s always tender, wonderful. There was one person who said they wanted the poem read at their funeral.
Q: Has the meaning of “One Today” or either of the other two poems changed for you at all since the inauguration?
A: Yeah, “One Today” especially. I’ve come to realize how personal that poem really is to me, even though it doesn’t seem on the surface to be very autobiographical. I realized that what I was envisioning or wishing for — a nation village, that specific longing of togetherness, community — was very much in line with everything that I’ve been wishing for in my life. … So I’ve come to realize that not just the poem, but that the whole inaugural experience, in some ways, that the greatest gift in all that was having a deeper sense of home, and realizing that home was sort of my own backyard in the states.
Shirley Qiu: firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @callmeshirleyq